homelessness in azerbaijanDespite Azerbaijan’s abundance of resources, homelessness in Azerbaijan became a major crisis as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Due to this war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, nearly 1 million people in Azerbaijan became internally displaced refugees. The major combat operations waged by the Azeri government in the northern part of Karabakh added to this calamity. This offensive resulted in the displacement of 40,000 Armenians, thereby contributing significantly to the problem of homelessness in Azerbaijan.

Not Just the War

Those displaced or made refugees by the Nagorno-Karabakh war are unfortunately just one dimension of homelessness in Azerbaijan. Street children are another common complication, contributing to the issue. There are around 80,000 children facing homelessness in Azerbaijan, though many think the real number is higher. Many of these children are exploited through violations of internationally recognized child labor laws, experiencing sex trafficking and street begging, among other forms of exploitation. A number of them become homeless after leaving government-sponsored orphanages and tend to be more exposed to forms of human trafficking and child exploitation. Some of these children come from troubled homes or lead troubled lives while others are simply the displaced or refugees of the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Complications Lead to More Problems

Many street children face increased health risks due to the nature of their work. According to Dr. Dadashova, “The street children who earn money washing old cars can inhale toxic fumes.” Dadashova believes that these children tend to be more susceptible to blood diseases. Adding to these problems, Azerbaijan doesn’t appear to have a robust state-sponsored system in place for the adult homeless population. Moreover, the government has engaged in many illegal evictions and demolitions that have worsened the problem of homelessness in Azerbaijan and drawn condemnation from major human rights groups.

The Silver Lining

The government did pass a law in 2005 that was meant to combat the problem of child homelessness in Azerbaijan. Additionally, the government has undertaken further, major initiatives to integrate the internally displaced and refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh War, through investments in housing. According to the Crisis Group, the government has helped in significantly reducing homelessness in Azerbaijan by moving around 108,000 displaced people into housing and constructing more housing for an additional 115,00 people. When it comes to the larger problem of homelessness, the government has built a temporary shelter in the Zabrat settlement of the Sabunchi district. Here, the government plans to keep those in need for six months, after which the homeless will be resettled in either nursing homes or permanent homeless shelters. In 2014 the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population created a shelter in the same region for children, with amenities like a dining room and swimming pool.

However, Azerbaijan is known for strong social bonds. According to Anar Valiyev from the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), “Networks amongst these people allow newcomers to reduce transaction costs in terms of finding housing and jobs or solving immediate practical problems. Thanks to bonding social capital, the phenomenon of homelessness, typical of big cities, is almost unknown in Azerbaijan.”

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

rural-urban education gap
China has the largest education system in the world, and education investments make up 4% of the country’s annual GDP. But despite China’s reputation of striving for academic excellence, the country’s rural-urban education gap is widening, and those in poverty are being left behind. After a passing a certain grade level in school, there are no guarantees for rural students to continue their education as easily as their urban peers. This rural-urban education gap helps perpetuate China’s large divide between social classes.

Causes of China’s Rural-Urban Education Gap

China’s government has a mandatory nine-year education policy that allows Chinese children to attend school at no cost from grades one through nine. But after completing primary school, impoverished children are at a much higher risk of dropping out than their urban counterparts. The income level for rural regions is three times less than that of urban regions, yet residents from both areas are expected to afford tuition, books and other educational fees. High school becomes the financial responsibility of families, but upon reaching this level, 60% of rural students have already dropped out because of the costs.

Many rural parents play a game of risk when considering their children’s education. When parents ultimately decide to leave for higher salaries in urban areas, around 60 million children are left in villages to live with relatives and attend school. But while parents’ intentions are to earn money for their children’s schooling, this lack of parental supervision for these “left-behind” children accounts for over 13% of school dropouts by the eighth grade.

The COVID-19 pandemic may increase China’s rural-urban education gap. Only 50% of students in rural regions have undisrupted access to online classes, with one-third of those students being completely cut off from learning. On the other hand, only 5.7% of urban students have zero access. The issue stems from households lacking computers and strong internet connections — a problem that hits rural children the hardest. For example, 40% of students in urban regions own a computer, compared to only 7.3% of students in villages.

Local governments are responsible for financing education in their regions, but those in rural areas often experience financial shortages. Without governmental support, families are left to pay for further schooling but lack the means to do so, resulting in dropouts and poor educational quality. Rural schools are usually staffed with fresh graduates, who are cheaper to hire, but who lack the teaching abilities and experience to properly develop young minds. Incredibly low salaries lead to a high turnover rate in rural communities, with educators in one county reported at earning only 2,500 yuan ($358.79 USD) per month.

Classroom instruction is also difficult with inadequate teaching supplies. While urban classrooms use up-to-date technology in large spaces, rural classrooms lack basic resources and include cramped rooms for students to sleep, because most travel far from their villages to attend school. Without experienced teachers and stimulating learning spaces, the few rural students who can pursue higher education do not make it as far as their urban peers. Less than 5% of rural students are admitted to universities, while over 70% of urban students attend, contributing to China’s rural-urban education gap.

International Aid

China’s rural-urban education gap falls directly in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which target unequal education and the disparaging effects of poverty. The U.N. is working with China to end wealth disparities in education and promote inclusivity in classrooms. The World Bank is also financing efforts toward mending this gap, including support for the Guangdong Compulsory Education Project. This project’s mission, enacted in 2017 and set to finish in 2023, focuses on improving classroom equipment and teaching quality in public schools. According to the Ministry of Education, 99% of school-age children complete the mandatory nine-year school policy. The World Bank pledged $120 million for this program, which will advance learning from grades first through ninth, helping rural children receive a more comprehensive education while school is still accessible to them.

With China’s current education system, rural children struggle to finance and pursue higher learning. As a result, the rich remain rich and the poor remain poor, perpetuating intergenerational poverty. China’s rural-urban education gap remains a challenge, and changes must be made. As education in China improves, poverty will decrease and millions of children can hope for brighter futures.

Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

cobots in developing countriesAutomation has often been discussed as the enemy of progress, taking jobs and resources away from low-skilled workers. However, recent reports suggest that cobots offer a compromise for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly in the developing world. Though the effects of widespread use remain to be seen, the use of cobots in developing countries has already had positive effects, according to leading Danish robotics company Universal Robotics (UR).

What Are Cobots?

The first cobot (collaborative robot) was invented in 1996 by J. Edward Colgate and Michael Peshkin, both professors at Northwestern University. At the time, the invention was called a “programmable constraint machine.” Since then, human beings in companies across the world have been working alongside cobots, using the machines’ superior strength and accuracy to enhance processes from surgery to crop harvesting. Cobots differ from robots mainly in that they are not dangerous; they are much smaller and lighter and can work in close proximity to people. They are also not pre-programmed, and they can be trained to complete a process repetitively and even refine their abilities, improving as they go.

Cobots represent a growing industry worldwide, having generated $580.8 million in 2018. This growing industry, UR says, is expected to be worth over $9 billion by 2024. The industry is also relevant in developing nations such as Malaysia, where experts expect the use of cobots to increase.

Challenges to Manufacturing in Developing Nations

Emergent economies often struggle to match already-developed areas of the world in terms of productivity. Human labor alone cannot exceed the work done by human-cobot teams because of the advantages in strength and accuracy that cobots offer. Many poorer nations are not prepared to front the ever-increasing cost of feedstock, while also using devalued currencies to invest in technological solutions. On the other hand, they cannot afford to keep doing things the same way, says UR. Cobots offer crucial innovation that doesn’t empty the coffers.

From “Dull, Dirty, Dangerous and Dear” to Dynamic Careers

Popular culture often presents robots as adversaries; movies and books narrate universal fears of robots taking over human life and livelihood. But many of the jobs lost to automation, such as jobs in mining and sewage, fall into categories that are sometimes referred to using the four D’s: dirty, dangerous, dull (demeaning) and dear (expensive).”

Cobots can help reduce workplace injuries involving heavy and repetitive lifting, for example. And since cobots specifically require a human partner in order to be effective, using cobots does not necessarily result in the loss of a job. In fact, it could mean just the opposite: training people to operate cobots frees them from mundane tasks, making them more qualified, a phenomenon known as “upskilling.” This results in a more knowledgeable workforce whose lives are enriched by more fulfilling careers. In this way, cobots in developing countries can be part of the solution, not the problem.

Darrell Adams, the director of UR in Southeast Asia and Oceania, said of cobots: “Tomorrow’s workplaces will be run by highly skilled workers assisted by intelligent devices. Cobots help to automate and streamline repetitive and potentially unsafe processes, thus ensuring a safe work environment while increasing productivity and efficiency.”

The Successes of Cobots in Developing Countries

Cobots in developing countries have already had a degree of success. For example, in India, one automobile parts manufacturer, Craft and Technik Industries (CATI), saw the urgent need for more precision in its operations. A workforce deficit meant that manual work often resulted in errors and waste. However, after the addition of a UR cobot used to perform quality control, the company stopped experiencing these errors. At the same time, production jumped by 15-20%.

UR believes that cobots could offer up to a 30% boost in manufacturing output of SMEs in developing countries such as Malaysia. According to UR, as of 2020, most Malaysian companies automate less than half of their operations. This could be because industrial robots are simply too expensive for SMEs to afford.

Smaller, more practical cobots in developing countries make better financial and logistical sense because they are easy to put to immediate use, without causing invasive stoppages in production for installation. “With the assistance of cobots, local manufacturers can achieve higher levels of efficiency and rapid productivity gains,” said Adams.

According to UR, companies that have opted to automate their processes using cobots can slash production errors while boosting productivity by as much as 300%. For SMEs in the developing world, though, the most compelling evidence is in return on investment (ROI). Companies who have recently signed on to cobot technology can achieve ROI in about a year.

Automation and Policymaking

It is clear that developing nations will have to confront how to “upskill” workers in a way that accounts for socioeconomic differences and the gaps in access those differences can cause. In some countries such as Thailand, policymakers have already convened to form organizations dedicated to developing automation industries while equipping workers with the skills needed to keep up with those advances. But some economists are skeptical that this would be the norm in most countries, and propose a government-provided basic income for those who have lost employment. Whatever the case, with robots already here to stay, it seems clear that cobots in developing countries offer the happy medium that these countries need to compete in an increasingly automated world.

Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

africa innovation challenge“What’s New?” This is the question engraved on a medallion for the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) created the award in 2014 to honor Janssen, a prominent pharmaceutical researcher who passed away in 2003. Janssen would pose this two-word question daily to his research and development lab. Now, every year, the award is given to an innovative and passionate scientist or team of scientists alongside a $200,000 prize as part of J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge.

The Africa Innovation Challenge

The challenge is part of J&J’s Champions of Science initiative. Seema Kumar, J&J’s vice president of innovation, global health and policy communication, explains that the initiative is designed to “champion science” because “science needs champions.” The 2016 launch of J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge 1.0 was part of a geo-specific initiative to support scientific advancements in Africa. Such developments are key to improving healthcare in impoverished areas.

J&J sought applications from Africa-based entrepreneurs who were creating new healthcare services and products in “early childhood development and maternal health,” “empowering young girls” and “overall family well-being.” Winners received mentorship from J&J’s team of researchers, engineers and scientists as well as up to $100,000 in funding.

The Need for Innovation

Access to healthcare is often a hurdle throughout Africa. Twenty-seven of the world’s 28 poorest countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2015, the majority of the world’s poor reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the average poverty rate is 41%. In comparison, data from 2018 suggests that approximately 8.6% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty.

With such high rates of poverty, it is estimated that less than 50% of Africans have access to modern healthcare facilities. In 2009, sub-Saharan Africa spent only 6.1% of its GDP on healthcare. For the majority of African countries, less than 10% of their GDP goes toward health expenditures. The continent consequently has the highest mortality rates in the world and is the sole continent in which deaths from chronic diseases are outnumbered by deaths from infectious diseases.

J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge aims to alter these statistics and improve healthcare in Africa through science-based initiatives. After naming three Africa Innovation Challenge winners in 2017, J&J launched the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 in 2018. This time, the six challenge categories were “botanical solutions,” “packaging innovations,” “mental health,” “health worker support,” “digital health tools” and “essential surgical care.” J&J announced six winners, who each received up to $50,000 in funding. These are the nine companies that have won the Africa Innovation Challenge since its launch in 2016.

Winners of the Africa Innovation Challenge

  1. 2017 winner SaCoDé makes washable and re-wearable pads that tie around the waist for girls and women in Burundi. The pads prevent infection among the many Burundian women who cannot afford disposable pads. Since winning the Africa Innovation Challenge, SaCoDé has opened two new manufacturing locations and created jobs for 20 women in Burundi.
  2. 2017 winner Innov Asepsis makes hands-free faucets. There is an approximately 60% chance of contracting an infection from unclean faucet handles in Uganda, but these hands-free faucets reduce the risk of infection by eliminating contact. PedalTaps fit onto existing sinks to reduce the spread of diseases related to faucet handles.
  3. 2017 winner J-Palm is a makeup and skincare brand made from cold-pressed palm oil. Makeup products imported into Liberia are affordable and popular but are often made with chemicals that may be toxic. J-Palm addresses this issue by providing customers with affordable, safe makeup products. The company supports local farmers and has created 330 new jobs in Liberia.
  4. 2019 winner LifeBank is a digital platform with the goal of increasing safety, efficiency and efficacy in Nigeria’s blood supply chain. Approximately 8% to 14% of HIV cases in Nigeria are a consequence of poor safety and regulatory measures in the blood donation system. LifeBank works to deliver the necessary blood for transfusions to Nigerian hospitals in less than 45 minutes to improve the quality of the blood supply chain.
  5. 2019 winner The Hope Initiative uses a validated metric to measure “hope among nurses and mothers” in Rwanda and to “understand how hope intersects with healthcare worker burnout and perinatal health outcomes,” according to the J&J website. An estimated 50% of healthcare workers are classified as “high risk” for experiencing burnout. Based on demonstrated research that hope decreases burnout, The Hope Initiative’s goal is to diminish burnout among emergency care workers by identifying the “interventions that positively influence hope.”
  6. 2019 winner Dreet is a Botswanan phone application that uses hearing device tests and remotely connects children in rural Africa to healthcare professionals. Approximately 67% of the world’s hearing-impaired population resides in developing countries. The Dreet application helps families navigate life with a hearing-impaired child while working to mitigate high or unnecessary healthcare expenses.
  7. 2019 winner Crib A’ Glow is a “solar-powered, foldable phototherapy crib provided to hospitals, health centers and parents” in communities across Nigeria to treat infant jaundice, according to the J&J website. Infant jaundice most commonly occurs when babies’ livers have not matured sufficiently in order to remove a chemical compound called bilirubin from the bloodstream. An estimated 6 million babies worldwide do not receive treatment for jaundice. Left untreated, jaundice can cause hearing loss, developmental issues, cerebral palsy and, in some cases, death. Crib A’ Glow helps to give poor infants a chance.
  8. 2019 winner Uganics manufactures mosquito-repelling soap that is both affordable and organic. Africa has the world’s highest rates of malaria transmission. In 2018, the continent was home to 93% of the world’s malaria cases and 94% of malaria-related deaths. Sixty-seven percent of those deaths were children. Uganics’s soap helps prevent malaria from spreading in Uganda.
  9. 2019 winner M-SCAN aims to help pregnant women in rural Ugandan communities who do not have access to ultrasounds. The company’s device uses a portable probe and smartphone, laptop or tablet to perform ultrasounds. This device helps healthcare professionals and/or midwives prepare for any risks that may arise during delivery.

The winning companies, or “Champions of Science,” have helped increase healthcare access among Africa’s poor while also improving healthcare safety. Through J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge, these sustainable solutions to public health problems have also created jobs, providing workers with stable incomes and helping boost countries’ economies. By expanding support and funding for public health innovations, companies, organizations and governments can continue to “champion” change.

– Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr

internet access
In sub-Saharan Africa, more people own a mobile phone than have access to electricity. About 41% of sub-Saharan Africans use the internet and 33% own a smartphone. Importantly, these numbers are on the rise. The region’s internet access has greatly expanded in recent years, especially in rural areas. This, in turn, allows for more people to use digital services such as online education and telemedicine. Widespread access to these key services benefits rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa by promoting socioeconomic development. All of these benefits, made possible through internet access in sub-Saharan Africa.

Expanding Access to Telemedicine

Rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa typically have fewer health resources and doctors readily available. Moreover, people may need to travel long distances to reach the nearest hospitals. The region holds 13% of the world’s population, but only 2% of the world’s doctors. With mobile devices and reliable internet access, people can access basic healthcare regardless of their geographical location. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, 41% of respondents in sub-Saharan Africa “use the internet to access information about health and medicine.”

By facilitating telemedicine systems, internet connectivity can improve the quality of care in community health centers and reduce patients’ transport times and medical costs. For example, the Novartis Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on projects that improve health, launched a telemedicine system in Ghana in 2011. This system allows frontline health workers to connect with medical specialists across the country. Available 24/7, doctors and specialists at teleconsultation centers provide advice for treatments and help manage emergency cases.

Increasing Literacy Through Online Education

According to the Pew Research Center, the large majority of surveyed sub-Saharan Africans believe that “the increasing use of the internet has had a good influence on education in their country.” As internet access has increased dramatically in recent years, digital learning has become a more promising opportunity to improve literacy rates in the region. Also, because more people own smartphones, online learning resources are more widely available and ubiquitous.

Digital learning is a more cost-effective way to increase access to education, which will directly benefit impoverished communities. Educated people are more likely to be employed, earn a higher income, participate in politics and ensure that their children are also educated. Therefore, increased access to education can lift individuals and communities out of poverty — having a lasting, positive impact on the sub-Saharan region as a whole.

Looking Ahead

Numerous governments, telecommunications providers, nonprofit organizations and private companies have invested in sub-Saharan Africa’s internet connectivity in the last decade. Telecom providers have expanded internet connectivity by selling and distributing solar off-grid kits to individuals. This, in turn, also helps to promote renewable energy in the region. In May 2020, Facebook, along with African and global telecom partners, announced plans to build 37,000 kilometers of subsea cable infrastructure. This project, called 2Africa, will create a direct high-speed internet connection between 16 African countries, Europe and the Middle East.

Overall, as internet access expands across sub-Saharan Africa, more people will be able to access digital services with extensive socioeconomic benefits. Telemedicine and online education are accessible only to those with a reliable internet connection. However, these benefits can have a massive impact on health, literacy and poverty rates in sub-Saharan Africa — especially in rural communities.

Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

Tourism's Impact on Reducing Poverty
Within the past decade, international travel to developing countries has risen substantially. Countries like Tanzania and Indonesia have benefited from a surge in tourism. Moreover, research postulates that this will improve economic growth in developing countries. Economic developments in these countries are essential for stable socioeconomic growth. Tourism’s impact on reducing poverty within developing nations will be addressed in this article. However, the tourism industries in these countries promote more than just income generation — also, stability, opportunities in local communities, employment and cultural prosperity.

Advantages

In 46 of the 49 least developed nations (nearly 94%), tourism has become one of the primary sources of economic income. Moreover, in some countries, this results in 25% of GDP. The total contribution of tourism in 2019 generated roughly $9.2 billion, with direct contributions globally generating nearly $2.8 billion. The income generated in these countries can provide further support to local communities and the overall infrastructure and revenue of developing countries.

The tourism industry offers excellent advantages for socioeconomic growth and poverty alleviation. One of the most significant factors is employment. Many individuals living in developing countries lack the education and opportunity for high-paying, skilled jobs. Jobs within the tourism industry, such as food, conservation and hospitality require lower skill levels. Therefore, allowing for expanded employment opportunities. In these ways, tourism’s impact on reducing poverty is both positive and significant.

Disadvantages

The tourism industry can certainly promote nations, effectively raising their global profile and allowing for even more tourism. However, it can also allow for environmental damage, such as pollution, littering, resource depletion or loss of natural habitats due to the massive increase in visitors. In this same vein, roughly 40 million Americans traveled internationally in 2019. Yet, alternatively, it should be noted that tourism can potentially provide funding for conservation and create incentives to preserve natural areas. This occurs in both urban and rural environments to regenerate the areas.

Infrastructure such as roads, airports, hotels and other tourism services may fail to keep up with the estimated tourist projections of an “additional 400 million arrivals forecasted in 2030.” Infrastructure’s crucial role in tourism is in the amenities that these countries can provide for visitors. Although, with tourist arrivals already surpassing projections by 2017, some countries may struggle to progress and uphold their “infrastructure readiness” quickly enough.

Tanzania and Indonesia: Success Stories

Tanzania, located in sub-Saharan Africa, has become a significant tourist attraction within the past couple of years. Due to its rich culture and conservation, Tanzania has become a highly desirable destination. The nation accounted for 1.28 million tourist arrivals in 2016 alone. With this rise, Tanzania’s GDP of 4.7% is directly linked to tourism and travel expenditures. Furthermore, the country increased investments by 8.7% ($1.2 billion) and “export earnings,” generating $2.5 billion in revenue. These earnings dramatically impacted job opportunities, a significant variable in alleviating poverty. E.g., the increased investments employed 470,500 persons in the tourism and travel industry in 2016. Recent reports from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) expect the tourism and travel sector to continue to rise “6.6% annually in the next 10 years.”

Indonesia has also created a profitable tourism and travel industry. Striving to improve income inequality and alleviate poverty through tourism has proven to be a successful initiative. A study conducted by LPEM FEB UI, Universita Indonesia, shows that tourism activities have reduced the “depth of poverty from 2.04 to 1.21.” Along with this, severe poverty lessened in 2016 from 0.37 to 0.29. Additionally, the study also reveals that tourist activities offer more significant support within communities. For those living in regions with more prevalent tourist activity — the poverty rate is 1.5%–3.4% lower than regions that are not.

Continuing the Positive Impact

While the advantages do not necessarily outweigh the disadvantages — there are significant, positive results in promoting the travel and tourism industry in the highlighted regions above. With continued progress, countries such as Tanzania and Indonesia have made increasing strides in alleviating poverty. Tourism’s impact on reducing poverty represents a significant feat that will hopefully continue to yield positive results for the world.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

China Technological Innovations
As a highly populated country, China is home to many different demographics, when it comes to income distribution. Poverty in China frequents the rural areas, where development is slower when compared with metropolitan cities. Despite the country’s massive population, more than 82 million citizens are no longer impoverished. In that same vein, the poverty rate of China decreased from around 10% to just less than 2%. As a result of some technological innovations in China, the country has seen improvements in poverty rates.

Generating Synergy

An initiative done by China to reduce poverty is through increasing synergies within China’s markets. By connecting public and private businesses — small and hard-earning jobs like farming can gain more income. Not only does creating partnerships with different companies increase the flow of money — but it is also helping more jobs become available for struggling citizens. Moreover, it boosts the overall productivity of each organization involved. In 2019, the cooperation between China and the E.U. made over 3 trillion yuan (nearly $450 billion), an increase of nearly 10% from the previous year. Creating synergy has benefited China’s economy with new jobs and income sources — especially for low-earning workers.

Farmer Field Schools

Farmers in rural China are among the most vulnerable in the country, as they are the most impoverished. Farmer Field School is a 2019 initiative that provides educational and informative training for small farmers. These forms of training include teaching social skills and business management. Those immersed in this training reached a new profit of more than 15,000 yuan (more than $2,000). This figure represents an increase of around 105% compared with those who did not participate in the training. Farmer Field Schools have reinforced China’s rural farmers’ decision-making skills when it comes to agriculture. Furthermore, they have helped reduce the level of poverty seen among rural farmers by increasing their earnings with newfound knowledge.

BN Vocational School

BN Vocational School (BNVS) is an education program that is free of charge for the underprivileged youth. This organization focuses on generational poverty and how to help end it. As a vocational school, BNVS sets students up for success by equipping them with the skills they will need in their future career paths. Nearly 7,000 disadvantaged children have received education from BNVS via the 11 schools operated. BNVS helps its students escape poverty by nurturing their education to help them secure jobs in the future.

INOHERB Cosmetics

INOHERB Cosmetics is a Chinese company that specializes in herbal medicine: in particular, the Rhodiola plant. As a country that loves herbal medicine, Rhodiola became a product of high-demand — giving farmers an increased new workload. INOHERB proposed a policy that would pay farmers additional wages if they successfully grew the plant. With more than 8,000 seedlings planted and a successful survival rate of more than 80%, farmers were granted an additional 30,000 RMB (around $4,500) on top of their original income. INOHERB Cosmetic’s unique approach towards alleviating poverty has benefited more than 1,200 farmers and continues to mobilize and support impoverished workers.

Innovations in China Paving the Way Forward

With proven results, China’s efforts towards poverty relief has provided impoverished people with a second chance of increasing their incomes. Innovations in China have taken on distinct forms, such as educational initiatives and creating public and private business synergies. These innovational initiatives have certainly benefited the country and with a little more help and support from continued initiatives — more rural citizens can continue to do better.

Karina Wong
Photo: Flickr

Pott’s DiseaseInfectious diseases are one of the main results of poverty in the developing world. In addition, the prevalence of infectious diseases has long been disparate between developing and developed nations. In a report on environmental risk factors and worldwide disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) affirmed the “total number of healthy life years lost per capita was 15-times higher in developing countries than in developed countries” for infectious diseases. Yet, one disease continues to be the deadliest infectious disease in the world, killing approximately 4,000 people a day: tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a devastating widespread illness in the developing world, specifically in Asian and sub-Saharan African nations. However, tuberculosis of the spine called Pott’s Disease is a serious concern for the developing world. Read on for five things to know about Pott’s Disease.

5 Things To Know About Pott’s Disease

  1. Pott’s disease gets its name from a British surgeon. Though it is also referred to as spinal tuberculosis, the namesake of Pott’s Disease takes after British surgeon Percivall Pott. Pott originally studied and defined the condition in 1779, and his writings and research are still used today.
  2. Pott’s disease begins when tuberculosis spreads to the spine. Tuberculosis is an airborne infection that begins when an individual inhales mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes the disease. If tuberculosis goes untreated for a long period of time (which it often does in the developing world due to lack of access to healthcare and low-income citizens who cannot afford medication), the disease can spread from the lungs to the spine. Once this happens, an individual experiences a type of “spinal arthritis.” Tuberculosis bacteria invades the spinal cord and, if it infects two neighboring spinal joints, blocks the nutrient supply to that region of the back. Eventually, the spinal discs deteriorate and can cause serious back injury, difficulty standing or walking, nerve damage and, in serious cases, paralysis.
  3. Pott’s disease is visually recognizable and has existed for centuries. Unlike normal tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs, Pott’s disease is easily visually recognizable due to the severe curvature of the mid to lower spine that results from the infection. Specifically, the thoracic spinal region is the most affected, followed closely by the lumbar region. This visual indication from remains traces the disease back to the European Iron Age and Egyptian mummies, making it one of the oldest documented diseases in history.
  4. Spinal tuberculosis only represents a small percentage of all tuberculosis cases. Although it is the most debilitating form of tuberculosis, Pott’s Disease only accounts for 1.02 cases per 100,000 tuberculosis cases in the world. This rate is higher among Africans, where 3.13 per 100,000 cases are attributed to Pott’s Disease. Globally, this means that only 1-2% of all tuberculosis cases are attributed to that disease.
  5. Pott’s disease can be treated through a rigorous medication regimen or surgery. Pott’s Disease is a result of a lack of treatment over a long period of time; conversely, a lengthy period of medication is often needed to fully treat the condition. The time period of treatment ranges from nine months to over a year, depending on individual symptoms and progression. However, medication cannot redeem an affected individual’s deformed spinal structure. Thus, it is often only used to treat the tuberculosis infection after surgery. “Spinal fusion or spinal decompression surgeries” can both repair the warped spine and “prevent further neurological complications.” Physical therapy is also often necessary after receiving spine surgery for Pott’s Disease. Yet, treating Pott’s Disease is highly expensive. Even when tuberculosis medication is free, “patient costs associated with TB treatment can be upwards of 80% per capita income in some regions.” However, multiple organizations exist that provide donations to supply healthcare and surgeries to low-income patients in developing nations. In addition, specific organizations like the Nuvasive Spine Foundation provide life-saving spine surgery in vulnerable regions around the world.

Although Pott’s Disease represents a small percentage of all tuberculosis cases, it is a serious illness. However, through the help of surgeons, medication and awareness, the disease can hopefully be treated across the globe soon.

– Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

crisis in yemenCivil war has taken over Yemen for over five years. As a result, upward of 12 million minors are in desperate need of some form of humanitarian aid, making the crisis in Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Experts fear Yemen’s violent and impoverished conditions will have a severe effect on the mental health, and consequent futures, of the country’s children.

Violence in Yemen

As a country of extreme poverty to begin with, Yemen is struggling in this time of war. Violence and fighting remain constant as clashing forces, including the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition, fight for power.

Although all demographics in Yemen have been strongly affected, children are bearing the brunt of this crisis in Yemen. The Yemen Data project recorded over 17,500 deaths since the beginning of the war in 2015. The deaths of children were a large portion of the casualties, forcing Yemeni children to constantly fear the death of a friend, sibling or even their own death. Additionally, with approximately 12 airstrikes on Yemen each day, the sounds of war are consuming. The war is inescapable for those in Yemen.

Health and Nutrition During Crisis

Many of the systems taken for granted in developed countries collapsed in Yemen as a result of the war. Health services are extremely limited, leaving over 10 million Yemeni children without access to healthcare services, which are of great importance in one’s formative years. High rates of disease and unsanitary conditions due to the overcrowding of millions of displaced families make the lack of these services even more tragic.

Furthermore, the crisis in Yemen has placed over 10 million Yemenis at risk of famine, while double this number are already food insecure. Such malnutrition results in the hindered development of children in Yemen.

Another system that is important to the development of children in general is the education system. Like the systems mentioned before, Yemen’s educational system has also suffered amidst this continuing war. As of June 2020, almost 8 million Yemeni children were unable to attend school, damaging their development and futures.

Yemen Mental Health Studies

A recent study conducted by Save the Children, an organization aiming to better the lives of the world’s children through health, educational and aid services, surveyed over 1,250 Yemeni children and guardians. From this survey, Save the Children found 50% of the children who responded said they experience feelings of depression amidst the crisis in Yemen.

In addition to feelings of sadness, 20% of the children said they live in extreme fear. Parents and caregivers supported this statistic, claiming their children had experienced increased incidents of nightmares and bedwetting. Such common feelings and behaviors indicate a growing prevalence of mental health disorders, including PTSD and depression, in children in Yemen.

Consequences of the Crisis in Yemen

Dr. Carol Donnelly, a psychotherapist and professor of psychology at Northwestern University, told The Borgen Project about her concern for children experiencing the conditions of the crisis in Yemen. “If the trauma lasts for too long, which apparently it is, the kids could have all sorts of dissociative experiences (related to PTSD), just extreme mental health issues,” Donnelly said.

With constant fears of attack and altered living conditions in Yemen, Donnelly stated that there may be potential consequences of changing parent-child relationships during this crisis. “[Children] need to be in a relationship with an adult, not only for attachment emotionally, but just for learning so many things,” she said. “This relationship helps to wire the brain up properly, and if kids are not getting that because the parents are overwhelmed as well, we’re just going to have a whole generation of severely traumatized children. Children that will just be a burden on the entire society.”

She also referenced Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, explaining that we need to provide the most basic needs of these children, such as water and food, as a priority. Then we must provide these Yemeni children safety and shelter before ensuring they have loving relationships. By following this psychological theory, she hopes children will be able to mentally progress despite the crisis in Yemen.

Aid from Afar

Several global organizations are working to provide assistance to this generation of suffering Yemeni children in order to help them become successful regardless of their conditions. One such organization, Save the Children, has made efforts to make these children feel safe amidst the crisis in Yemen by creating engaging, peaceful spaces for children in Yemen to play and spend time with friends while consequently promoting further cognitive development. Here, these children can act without fear, as normal children would. Since the initiation of this project, almost a quarter of a million Yemeni children have visited these spaces.

Additionally, Save the Children is working to promote awareness around childhood mental health and rights in Yemen while also training mental specialists in the country. With only a couple of child psychiatrists servicing the entirety of Yemen, there is little education for the general population of Yemen surrounding this area of healthcare.

“Psychology is just … not recognized as a formal science in some countries yet. It is still very much stigmatized,” Donnelly agreed. “I think what would be a good solution is to have a psychologist train the people there how to simply be present and to exude unconditional love and empathy and to listen. That’s something anyone can do.”

– Hannah Carroll
Photo: Flickr

diarrheal disease in sub-saharan africaEvery year, millions of children under the age of 5 die. Of those children, almost 40% come from Africa. The chance of death for a child living in Africa is seven times higher than that of a child in Europe. This marks the need for improved medical care and foreign aid, especially because many of these deaths are caused by diarrheal diseases. Diarrheal diseases are the second highest cause of death around the world, with over 1.5 million deaths each year. While any country’s children can be susceptible to this illness, developing countries have a marked disadvantage. Many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is prevalent, don’t have access to proper sanitation, clean water or viable medical care. Here are five facts about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

5 Facts About Diarrheal Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Mortality varies greatly by region. There is a higher prevalence of diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, but especially in impoverished nations. Additionally, within sub-Saharan Africa, certain countries have much higher mortality rates than others due to these diseases. More than half of the global deaths that occurred in 2015 due to diarrheal diseases came from just 55 African provinces or states out of the total 782 that exist.
  2. The problem is partially economic. Diarrheal diseases don’t only impact the health of these countries’ citizens, but they also take a massive toll on the economy. An estimated 12% of governmental budgets go toward treating these diseases in some countries. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that almost 10% of these nations’ total GDP goes toward the treatment of these health issues. Individual members of each country also feel the monetary blow of obtaining treatment. In many of these countries, the salary of the average citizen is around $1.00 a day. One Kenyan mother named Evalyne was unable to save her son from a diarrheal disease because she couldn’t afford the $0.25 needed for oral rehydration therapy.
  3. There are more victims of these diseases than just children. A lot of the information about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa focuses on children under the age of five. However, people over the age of 70 are also very susceptible to diarrheal diseases. The demographics of these two groups are unique. Most children die from diarrheal diseases in Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger. Nevertheless, most elderly people die from diarrheal disease in Kenya, the Central African Republic and India. The differences don’t end there. Most children who contract a diarrheal disease are plagued by the rotavirus, but the elderly have proven to be most prone to another virus named shigella.
  4. The diseases are treatable and even preventable with the right precautions. There are many precautions that can be taken to avoid catching diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most important preventative actions is to do everything possible to consume clean water. Around the world, 40% of the population doesn’t have easy access to adequate sanitation. Many children and adults don’t have soap to wash their hands with after using the bathroom, and oftentimes, the water they use is contaminated. Washing one’s hands and working to improve local water supplies can drastically improve one’s chances against diarrheal diseases. Treating citizens with supplements like zinc and vitamin A can also lessen the severity of diarrheal episodes. Other than supplements and better water, oral rehydration therapy is a great way to treat the illness. Families can use oral rehydration at home by combining salt, sugar and clean water to prevent crippling dehydration. Another potential solution is a rotavirus vaccine.
  5. Education and competition can change the future. In some countries, access to clean water and proper sanitation seems impossible. However, providing communities with the resources and knowledge of how to improve sanitation and lower the risk of diseases has demonstrated that change is possible. In Cameroon, the World Wildlife Fund partnered with Johnson and Johnson to provide training and resources to the members of various communities. This helped them build more sanitary bathrooms and create new and viable water sources. One reason that these programs were so successful is that they created competitions among villages. This became a friendly way of motivating each other toward success.

Diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa continue to plague areas without clean water or access to healthcare. However, as time goes on, more and more programs and organizations aid in the control of these illnesses. For example, since 2018, ROTAVAC, a rotavirus vaccine, was prequalified by the World Health Organization for use in Ghana. This qualification is specifically focused on providing vaccines to those in countries without easy access to vaccination. Ghana is now the second country in Africa to place ROTAVAC as part of its program to immunize citizens against diarrheal disease. Doing this raises awareness across regions about a future where disease prevention is all the more possible.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr